I’ve been mulling over this year’s Christmas Dinner Menu for our big blended family. My goal is always to use recipes that are delicious, tasty, and pretty — but are no-brainers to make and serve.
For the main dishes, I decided on my never0fail, always juicy slices of Tri-Tip roast in au jus; and a nice center cut of grilled Norwegian salmon from Whole Foods, our favorite cut of fish. This should please the beef eaters and the fish eaters alike.
I recently discovered some delicate, amazing-tasting fresh “pasta purses” stuffed with cheeses and truffles at, of all places, Sam’s Club. After cooking them in boiling water, I gently ladled them into a quick rich sauce made of cream, a little garlic, Parmesan cheese and basil. To. Die. For. And silly easy. I now have my perfect fancy-but-simple Christmas side dish to put on the menu.
Finally, to add some freshness and crunch to round out the meal, I thought I’d make a salad. But I didn’t want an old boring salad. Then - faster than a speeding reindeer it came to me! I’d make a Christmas Wreath Salad. I’d arrange the greens on a plate like a wreath, dot it with red berries, both fresh and dried, sprinkle with nuts and top with feta cheese “snow” and tuck a bow at the bottom of the plate. Then, what could be more festive to drizzle on this pretty salad than a vinaigrette inspired by my favorite cranberry-orange relish?
As I write this, it seems the whole country is blanketed with snow and ice. Here in Denver it is a balmly… 1 degree. Our front yard proved to be the perfect place to chill the salad and snap some photos. Let me assure, I didn’t dawdle with the camera outside for long. In fact this was probably the fastest — and coldest – food photography session I’ve ever done. Greg and I sampled this trial-run salad as a one bowl supper tonight by topping it with some warm, sliced deli roast chicken. Big, Holly Jolly win.
By the way, if you are looking for an uplifting, fun gift for teachers, girlfriends, moms, grandmas or cooks in your family … may we suggest copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?
Our memoir is truly one of those perfect, generic, happy gifts that anyone on your list will enjoy. The recipes at the end of each chapter add extra value. The book is available online everywhere, and in most bookstores; but if you would like an autographed, wrapped copy check out Rachel’s last blog post with instructions on how to contact us.
Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette
About 4 to 5 cups of salad greens (I used chopped romaine and arranged spinach leaves on top of the “wreath mounds)
½ cup of whole nuts (I used pecans and pistachios)
¼ cup of dried red berries – cherries or cranberries
½ cup of fresh red berries – slice strawberries or pitted fresh cherries
1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (or if you prefer, grated white cheddar, parmesan, swiss or other white cheese)
On a large round plate, put a small bowl for the salad dressing in the middle. Arrange salad greens around the bowl to make a “wreath”, then dot the wreath with nuts, dried berries and fresh betters. Finally sprinkle with feta “snow”. Fill the bowl in the middle with the following vinaigrette and serve chilled.
Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 medium navel orange or 2-3 clementines, peeled and broken apart
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion or dried minced onion
½ t. garlic powder
2/3 cup olive oil
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, and turns a gorgeous raspberry red. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.
We have had several friends ask if they could get an autographed copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook as a Christmas gift. Why, we would love to….thank you for asking!
And since you asked so nicely, we’ll even gift wrap it if you like.
Autographed, wrapped copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook make the perfect Christmas gift for teachers, family members, girlfriends, or cooks. Funny, uplifting and warm-hearted memoir with recipes at the end of each chapter.
To order a signed copy, simply send us payment via paypal. Each book is $12 + $4 each for taxes and shipping & handling. (If ordering more than three copies to one address, send us an email and we’ll work out a lower shipping rate for you.)
Go to www.paypal.com >> Send money >> Send money online>>Buy something>>Fill in amount ($16 for one book, $32 for two)>>Send to laughcrycook (at) yahoo (dot) com (write in email format). Make sure the from email is an account you check regularly. You will be prompted to log in or create a free account if you haven’t done so already.
Once you send payment, we’ll send you a confirmation email within 12 hours to coordinate personalization, gift wrapping, and shipping instructions. If you don’t hear from us, check your spam folder or send us an email at laughcrycook (at) yahoo (dot) com.
Thank you so much to those who have asked us to sign a copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook for their friends and family (or themselves). That is the highest compliment and greatest gift to us!
Trying to shop for a foodie friend or just planning your own list and not sure what kitchen item you might want or need next? These are some of my go-to, use almost daily, wouldn’t want to be without them items.
Trader Joe’s Olive Oil with Pour Spout - I have bought at least six olive oil pour spout jars over the years and every one of them has failed me. The cork crumbled into the oil, the plastic spout slipped out every time I poured, the handle broke, the spout clogged… Recently, I tried the $7.99 bottle of Trader Joe’s olive oil. At __ ounces, that’s a fantastic deal. And the best part–the spout that comes with it stays put, doesn’t fall apart, doesn’t slip out! It isn’t as pretty as my others, but it’s not an eyesore either. And at that price, I don’t even have to mess with refills. I can just buy another bottle.
Cute Easy Pour Spice Jars – I found these jars at a closeout sale at the container store Outlet. Of course I did. And of course, I immediately regretted not buying more. I love the three generous pour options on this set. It’s too generous for the table, but when I’m cooking, I can pour a teaspoon or two of salt easily without breaking out the big carton of Morton’s like I used to. I keep salt, pepper, and seasoning salt in them because I tend to reach for those most often when cooking. But I’d love one for my nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder. I have a lot of favs! I found this set from IKEA that while not quite as easy because you have to pop open the top, they are cute enough to leave on the counter and cheap. These are pretty too. I might have to snag a set of them for the seasonings I tend to measure out, like cumin and chili powder. Oh and these are nice as well but pricier. They have the twist lids I prefer, so if you don’t close them, they don’t look sloppy.
Come Apart Kitchen Sheers – I use these every day for cutting up toddler food, to clipping flower stems, to cutting pizza. I have a red pair and black pair. I used to designate the red ones for meat (great for cutting chicken into strips and such) and the black for everything else–just so I never accidentally cross contaminated anything. Now I don’t need to do that since we don’t eat meat, but I still love having two pairs because I use them so often.
Ikea Stainless Mixing Bowls – I have a lot of pretty (and pricey) mixing bowls, but I reach for these 95% of the time. They are lightweight, easy to clean, easy to store, unbreakable. Love them!! I have two really big ones, two medium ones and four small ones. The really big ones are wonderful for kale salads or kale chips. Plenty of room to toss a head or two of kale around in some seasoning or dressing.
Pampered Chef Cutting Board – I’m sure there are other great cutting boards out there, but of the ones I have, this is my favorite. It’s simple, dishwasher safe, grips well to the counter so it never slides out from under me.
Old Fashion Popcorn Maker – I wish we didn’t love this little guy so much…but we do! Jared’s mom bought him this for Christmas last year. I never liked popcorn and didn’t understand why Jared’s family loved it so much. But I’d never made fresh popped popcorn. Sprinkled with a little nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, onion powder, and seasoning salt…it’s so good.
Rice Maker – I actually have a cheaper model, a $15 Rival model from Wal-Mart I think (probably on par with the $19 Black & Decker model on Amazon). It is fine. It would make a great under $20 gift. I use it all the time…but it’s not perfect. It sticks some and doesn’t have different settings for brown rice, so it’s a bit of a guessing game. If I were to buy one now, I’d buy this model. I mostly use it for quinoa and brown rice, but apparently you can cook all kinds of things in a rice maker. Who knew?
Salad Spinner - Every healthy kitchen needs a salad spinner, in my opinion. Washing and drying lettuce without it is a pain…and when something is a pain, you’re less likely to do it (and therefore eat it). Bagged lettuces have their place, but other than delicate lettuces like baby spinach, I generally prefer buying heartier lettuces like kale or romaine by the head. A salad spinner makes it a cinch to wash, dry, and store for later use. It’s also perfect for washing and drying herbs like parsley and cilantro. The OXO brand is my favorite. If you shop sales, you can find a good deal on it. I found one last year at Kohl’s for $20 with a sale and a coupon.
Cuisinart Stainless Steel 3.5-quart Saute Pan – I wanted a set of heavy-bottomed stainless steel pans last year for Christmas to replace my old warped pans that heat unevenly on my glass stove top, but I couldn’t decide which set to buy so I bought this one pan at a steep discount from Home Goods to see if I liked it (and stainless in general). I could not love this pan more. I use it every day. I plan on completing the set at some point, but if you just want to add one good pan to your collection this year, this is a great starting point. Mine is a different model number and came with a glass lid, but I think this one is basically the same thing.
Baby Bullet or Magic Bullet - I received this as a gift for a baby shower. I already had the Cuisinart food processor and a blender and thought I wouldn’t need a little one. Plus, I had a Magic Bullet years ago and the motor burnt out and I just never felt like it did a good job at blending. I think I had a dud…or I just expected too much out of it as it was my only blender at the time. But I use the Baby Bullet all the time now. I blend up a can of black beans to make quick refried beans, make quick small batches of white bean dip or hummus in it, blend salad dressings, and of course, you can blend up a little bit of dinner to make a quick meal for baby too. I underestimated this little guy. We even bring it with us on vacation. (I will say that I hated the baby food freezer system. I much preferred regular ice cube trays, but Jackson has fun playing with it, so there’s that.)
Vitamix – I finally got a Vitamix…and I’m a believer! Smoothies and soups and cashew queso and banana soft serve…oh my! I could do all of these with my blender and food processor…but Vitamix does it better and faster. I bought the refurbished model during their November sale. Today is the last day for that sale. If you use my affiliate promo code 06-009318, you’ll get free shipping anytime. I believe they are doing free shipping right now on all orders for the holidays, but if you use my code anyway, I’d be super grateful as I’ll earn a little kickback to put toward expenses related to running this blog.
Luca and Company’s Little Helper FunPod – I talk about the FunPod all the time. As a mom, this is my absolute favorite kitchen product. I could never get all the cooking I do done without it. It safely elevates children to counter height so they can help in the kitchen or watch you cook, or play in the sink independently while you make dinner. Total lifesaver for toddler moms and dads (and Grandmas too).
What are your favorite kitchen items?!
I’m on the lookout for a better set of measuring cups and spoons and a go-to water bottle for sipping on around the house and throw in my bag or purse when I’m out and about.
I was thinking of doing a favorite things for little boys post too. Would anyone be interested in seeing some of Jackson’s favs (or my favs for him)?
These Baked Zucchini Fries have started making a regular appearance on our family’s menu . When they cook, the zucchini gets soft and almost buttery, but the outside creates a crunchy shell. It’s a little like biting into a nutty chocolate truffle. You have to bite down with a little force to get through the crunchy exterior and then your mouth gets a surprise as your teeth quickly sink into the pillowy soft middle.
Sorry if I just took you from craving zucchini to craving chocolate in one paragraph. Come back! You won’t be disappointed. In fact, I’d pick a box of zucchini fries over a box of chocolate truffles any day. Unlike a box of chocolates, I know exactly what I’ll get in each bite…and it’s delicious.
I like serving them instead of garlic bread on pasta night. The bread coating gives you a little carb crunch, but unlike garlic bread, it also sneaks in a serving of veggies. I also paired them with The Gluten-Free Vegan’s Falafel recipe. I don’t recommend making both on one night, as that would be a labor intensive evening, but the falafel freeze wonderfully and can re-heat right in the oven with the zucchini fries.
Baked Zucchini Fries
I didn’t do exact measurements here. You can do as few as one zucchini or as many as you want. I usually do three to four for our family of three. Simply refill your dredging station as you run out. If you can’t fit them all on one pan, add another pan and bake at the same time.
Zucchini Squash (cut like steak fries) (Yellow squash works too)
Olive Oil Baking Spray
Unsweetened Almond Milk (or your choice of milk)
Panko Bread Crumbs
Smoked Paprika (or regular paprika)
Italian Seasoning (you could also use a steak seasoning or any other favorite spice blend)
1.Preheat oven to 400.
2. Line cut squash on a bed of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 20 minutes.
3. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.
4. Make dredging station: Put flour in a bowl, milk in a bowl, and bread crumbs in a bowl. Stir in salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and Italian seasoning into the bread crumbs (about 1/2 teaspoon each seasoning to 1 cup of bread crumbs).
5. Pat the zucchini dry.
6. Dredge: Dip them one or two at a time into the flour. Tap off excess flour. Dip into milk. Dip into bread crumbs. Place on baking sheet. Repeat until all zucchini are dredged.
7. Spray zucchini generously with olive oil baking spray.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until coating is crispy and brown and the inside is soft and buttery.
Mama Becky posted “12 Tips for avoiding Tears at the Table” on Huffington Post Parenting Blog today!
If you like this article, it would be oh so helpful if you could go to the Huff Post blog and leave a comment or Tweet or share on Facebook, PInterest, Etc. Many thanks to our wonderful readers…
Here’s the opening paragraphs from Huff Post today….
What are your childhood memories of eating at the family table? Warm and happy? Or angst-riddled?
Just because well-intentioned parents forced their kids to eat foods they loathed or sent them to bed without supper, doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate the madness. Our generation also grew up with lots of obesity, anorexia and other food disorders.
Drawing upon what we know about happy, healthy, normal-weight adults, here are “Twelve Tips for Avoiding Tears at the Table.” These hints will help your kids enjoy food without guilt, over-indulging or extreme dieting. In other words, without all the issues our generation has battled.
Rachel and I have decided to begin expanding our blog to include more than just recipes to nourish your bodies. We want to share thoughts, things, quotes, ideas, and more that nourish our souls. We come hungry each day for more than daily bread; we long for joy, peace, calm, wisdom, laughter, new ideas, interesting things, clarity, space and meaning. In fact, this will be the name of our next book… Nourished. (Due out Jan. 2015, with Zondervan.)
Greg and I are in a particularly challenging time of letting go of things, communities, and people who have, for one reason or another, moved on or out of our lives for now. I believe we’re in transition — between trapezes if you will — coming out of one season and now being “swept clean” as we wait for a new arrival or two. We do not know what or who God is bringing to our attention and our lives next, but we anticipate the coming, we’re readying our nests for whatever, or whoever it may be. Just as the leaves have to fall from the trees to make room for fresh growth, we are being called to let go of tasks that are no longer ours, to make room for fresh sprouts, new leaves. ‘”Behold, I am doing a new thing.”
As I pondered this, the following word picture came to mind, and has been a comfort. Perhaps it might also comfort and nourish you, today.
I think life is a little like bunch of bowls on a Lazy Susan in the middle of a table. God turns the Lazy Susan and our job is to focus on the bowl he’s put in front of us that day. The other bowls — the ones currently out of reach – are being tended to by others (on the other sides of God’s big table) and are not part of our particular “job” or “focus” for this day. Give us this day our daily bowl. Tomorrow we wake to a new bowl. Each day God gives us our portion and our lot, our manna, our daily bread… our bowl. To reach beyond that, across the table, to bowls that aren’t meant to be in our frame of concerns, tends to make a big mess.
What bowl has God put in front of you today? What few things are yours, and yours alone to tend to, just for the hours between now and sleep? Can you trust Him to use others to tend to bowls that are, for today, out of your reach? If so, serenity is yours.